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  MSNBC    MSNBC News Live    News/Business. Live news coverage,  
   breaking news and current news events. New.  

    March 16, 2011
    11:00 - 12:00pm EDT  

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bring down the temperature in some of those reactors. that least for the time being has been called off. so we continue to have a very desperate situation there and those u.s. officials coming in to try to help to see what they can do. meantime, the humanitarian crisis is widening. it is another very cold night here in japan. the snows were very heavy around the most seriously affected areas. so you have all the people without heat, without electricity. food and water supplies remain very low as do gas supplies. it is tough for people to get around, although they did have some buses of people, evacuees they were able to take out of the immediate area. and they're continuing to test people, including babies for radiation contamination. but red cross workers, other international aid organizations, they're being very cautious right now. they have actually pulled back a little farther away from the nuclear plant. obviously they want to protect
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the health and safety of their workers as they try to deal with this humanitarian crisis. thomas? >> chris jansing in tokyo for us. chris, thanks so much. the radiation released from nuclear power plants raises concerns about whether wind conditions will spread the radiation to other regions. jennifer car fog kncarfagno has tracking the winds for us. let's talk about what chris was reporting about the dangerous freezing temperature s that some people have to live with now, the homeless people that they're having to live with the outdoor conditions. >> thomas, that's exactly right. the weather situation in this case both helping and hurting the efforts. the hurting side is the rain, the cold, the snow is working against people trying to survive. but the weather itself with the winds, that situation is working for us here when it comes to the radiation and the potential of that hanging around. the winds have been from the northwest. they're continuing that.ç
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there a they are about 15 to 20 miles an hour at times. that will continue to move any radiation off shore, off into the ocean. now, as we head into the next couple of days, we are going to continue to be concerned about a pattern change. we'll still stay in the pattern with the northwest winds for another day. once the high pressure builds in and we get a pattern change, we are going to be concerned about the winds getting more stagnant. and what that means is there is not going to be a lot of movement of air and any radiation that escapes will sit there, will sit in the local area, will not be moved away. the high pressure building in. by the time we get into the time frame on friday, that situation is going to stick around for a couple of days. let me talk about, though this is really just happening at the low levels right now. want to show you from another per spect wh perspective what we're dealing with here. it is at a lower level typically than what we think about with the moving air across the pacific ocean. one more graphic, it is at the low levels we're concerned about. at this point, we're not
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concerned about this making it 5,000 miles across the ocean to the u.s. thomas, back to you. >> good to know. jen, thanks so much. appreciate it. now scientists and technicians are using what they have learned from past nuclear scares to solve the problems at the fukushima plants. our biggest scare, you may remember 32 years ago, three mile island, a mix of mechanical and operator error put our nation on alert about the dangers of nuclear energy. nbc's jeff rossen is live in middletown, pennsylvania, home of the nuclear facility. jeff, i know you reached out, met a lot of people there who have been there since the time of that nuclear accident and they live with it day in and day out. they seem to have moved forward. >> yes, it is that constant reminder. it is right over the tree line, right outside their backyards in some cases. this is very much three mile island is an active power plant, supplying electricity to 800,000 homes, most in the state of pennsylvania. it was marchç in '79 when ther was a partial core meltdown,
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scared a lot of people. they're first to admit there was no viable emergency plan, the evacuation plan was weak. they have changed a lot since then. they say they have learned the lessons over the past 32 years. but surprisingly things on the outside still very much the same. >> we didn't know. it was scary. we knew the sirens had gone off. somebody said something happened at the nuclear power plant. >> chaos. >> chaos. >> it was march 1979, a partial core meltdown at three mile island that shut the plant down and sent radioactive gas into the air, all of it just a stone's throw from joan and kenneth's house. >> we had a 5-year-old son we had to worry about. we had to worry about his safety and, our concern was to get him out of the area. >> good morning, everyone. some radioactive steam still leaking this morning from a damaged nuclear power plant in pennsylvania. >> it was a combination of mechanical failure and human error. to this day, the most serious nuclear power accident in american history.
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>> not finding anything are you, brian? >> not a thing. >> believe it or not, in one died and studies show there have been no long-term health issues. but there was fallout. americans were scared and for the nuclear power industry, the timing couldn't have been worse. the movie "the china syndrome" was released days before the accident, show thing a hollywood version of a nuclear meltdown and set the tone for the real world emergency playing out in pennsylvania. >> the biggest concern, can i get back? >> a presidential commission ordered sweeping changes at three mile island and the government agency that oversees it. today, 32 years later, officials here say it is safe. >> we want people to know we have redundant and numerous safety systems at three mile island. >> we're in your backyard now. >> right. >> you're in the shadow of this nuclear power plant. >> correct.ç >> make you nervous? >> no. no. i can't say it does.
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we had -- we have family and friends that all worked on the island and it was part of our lives. >> in fact, at the local cafe, we found many of the same people who experienced the accident as kids still live here as adults. >> we don't think about it day to day. but now that this is in the news, it makes you wonder what really did happen then and what could happen in the future. >> you think about this? >> yes, we have iodine pills in our home in case something happens. >> this is probably the safest nuclear plant in country because of the focus that was on it before. if i have to live around one, this is the one i'll live around. >> just to give you a little perspective here, here at three mile island in 1979, it caused $1 billion and 12 years to clean up this mess, thomas. so you think about what they have to deal with in japan, that plus, of course, all of the damage from an earthquake and a tsunami. they have a very, very, very long road ahead of them, longer than here, for sure.
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>> jeff rossen, thank you, in middletown, p.a., for us. the. the economic fallout is adding new questions to a worldwide recovery as the island nation tries to rebuild after being literally torn apart. japan must also contend with its financial markets dropping amid threats of nuclear catastrophe. and a hefty price tag of up to $200 billion in damages. but what will japan's financial woes take on our economic recovery here in the u.s. let's look at the boards today and see exactly how we're doing. red arrows across the board again today. the dow jones down 170 points. we saw it shifting there, going a little farther. the s&p down by 17. the nasdaq down by almost 27 points. i'm joined by neil irwin, financial and economics reporter for "the washington post." neil, nice to have you with us this morning. i want to remind everybody that japan accounts for less than 5% of american exports. but most analysts say the u.s. is only going to be slightly affected by the disaster. so how accurate are those
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predictions? >> yeah, as you say,ç the u.s. and japan are not huge trade partners. we do more business with china and other nations. that said, you have a real situation where the economy was just starting to gain momentum, just starting to come out of this deep recession we have been in and we have one more risk factor, higher oil prices, turmoil in the middle east. it is not an ideal time. we're not in a great position to weather any kind of body blow we face given the weak economy that we're in. >> let's talk about japan, output reduction and what is going to happen to them by half a percentage point this year. that means an additional $25 billion hit for this country. we talked about this over the last several days, the fluctuation of japan's teetering type of economy as it is. so how long is it going to take them to fully recover and how does that recovery have ripple effects around the world and for our very own recovery? >> yeah, you know there is a lot of factories and plants in japan that are shut down right now. big chunk of their auto industry, electronics industry,
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a lot of their industrial capacity is just off line now. some is destroyed in the northern part of the country and elsewhere in the country, in tokyo and the south. you have a lot of stuff that just shut down because there is, you know, concerns about the power supply, ports that are shut down, that sort of thing. eventually that capacity will come back on, and eventually they'll rebuild, the problem is that takes time. it is certainly a case where they'll have less economic output this year, now there will be some bounce back next year as they do the reconstruction effort. >> we talk about the reconstruction, the situation because it is not contained yet. we don't know what they're going to be bouncing back from and it could be worse if these reactors suffer a complete meltdown. in that case, the speculation, neil, is what will it do to the markets. >> that would be a worst skcase scenario. we have seen a drop in the stock market in the first three days after the earthquake. bounced back some on wednesday, 5% or 6%. there has been some retracement as the worst has not happened. if we saw a real nuclear
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disaster where there is radioactive, you know, impact on even tokyo, that would be a really catastrophic event for the world economy and something cf1 o apart from the human toll, there could be a very severe economic damage. >> do you think what we're watching on -- in terms of our markets has more to do with what is going on in washington, d.c. and the budget battle or do you think it really is indicative of what we're watching over in japan? >> i think markets are respondi responding not so much to the washington budget battle but the sense of whether this economic recovery is strong enough to -- has enough momentum to make it through the challenges. is the momentum in the u.s. -- is is it strong enough to, you know, avoid all the pitfalls and really power forward? >> all right, neil irwin, great to have you on today. appreciate it. president obama challenged the nation to win the future, but one senator from michigan is saying that we're trying to do it with one hand tied behind our back. and if disaster strikes here, do you have the supplies that you
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win the future. it is a great statement, even greater question. because it might not be so easy. questionable trade practices in china have a group of u.s. lawmakers up in arms over rees
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or what is better known as rare earth elements. these elements are used to manufacture everything from electric cars to military technology. and china controls about 95% of the world's supply of these raw materials. but some say that is too much control for any one country to have over that. senator debbie stabenow is one of the senators that wants president obama to take action on this. she joins us now from the russell rotunda. good to have you with us. good morning. >> thank you. good morning. >> you along with senators charles schumer of new york and sheldon of rhode island have sent a letter to tim geithner and ken salazar calling for u.s. action. so with all of you collectively pulling your power together, what action are you proposing here? >> well, first of all, let me say that it is not new for china not to be following the rules under the wto, unfortunately. we had a number of cases whether
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it is currency manipulation, stealing our patents, blocking businesses from selling to their government, all areas that i am actively working on. this is incredibly disturbing, this issue of rare earth elements because it actually affects cell phone component parts, our defense operations in terms of equipment, batteries for electric vehicles and as we're rolling outç the chevy vt and rolling out the ford focus, and other great new vehicles, now we see the component parts, the raw materials, being in jeopardy. what we're asking is that the administration use their power with the multinational banking community not to finance any of china's mining operations on rare earth elements until they follow the rules, and secondly that we make sure that we are not allowing them to mine in our country for rare earth materials
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until they follow the rules. it is just -- this is very worrisome for those of us who care about new technology, manufacturing, when they control 95% of the world's supply of basic raw earth materials. this is -- and they have been willing to use it. they have been willing to use it with japan over a diplomatic disagreement. they were willing to impose export blocks and controls and so on. so this is very concerning. >> you're saying that they're willing to hoard these items and then use them to barter for their own good in the future. >> absolutely. and why does it make sense when we're talking about too much dependence on foreign oil, why in the world would we want to have china controlling 95% of materials that we need for cell phones, dvds, military technology, our new electric vehicles. it makes no sense. >> do you think making blatant accusations that they're hoarding materials could harm
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diplomatic relations to get this solved and more equally distributed? >> we have for years talked with them about currency manipulation which costs us jobs in america. we have focused on the fact that they steal our patents, don't respect our patent laws. now we have them hoarding materials, raw materials. we talk and talk and they continue to do it. what i appreciate about the administration is they have against china. and that pushback has done more to be able to change behavior unfortunately than just talking to them. >> senator what is the timeline, though? i know as i said that you sent this letter on with your other counterparts, your colleagues, to salazar and also to tim geithner. so where do you stand timelinewise? when do you want to see something done about this? >> we want them to act as soon as possible. we would like them to act
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immediately. we believe sending these letters will help give them tools to push back with china. we have done that in other areas. senator lindsey graham and i introduced the china fair trade act to push back on a policy of purchasing -- that china was going to use where only chinese companies and chinese patents could purchase or be part of purchasing the government in china. we introduced legislation the administration used it to push back and they have actually changed china's policy. so i think china needs to understand that we in congress are going to fight for american jobs and businesses having a fair opportunity to compete and do business in china. and we're not going to stand by if they are eliminating our ability to create new products. >> we have got your eye on them. all right, senator debbie stabenow in d.c. for us. thanks for coming on today. >> thank you. raymond davis, that cia
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contractor being held on murder charges in pakistan, new developments out this morning about when he might be coming home. and could a disaster of japan's magnitude strike the u.s.? what you need to know to be best prepared for you and your family. ♪ i was diagnosed with copd. i could not take a deep breath i noticed i was having trouble. climbing the stairs, working in the garden, painting. my doctor suggested spiriva right then. announcer: spiriva is the only once-daily inhaled maintenance treatment for copd, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. i love what it does. it opens up the airways. announcer: spiriva does not replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms. stop taking spiriva and call your doctor right away if your breathing suddenly worsens, your throat or tongue swells, you get hives, have vision changes or eye pain, or have problems passing urine. tell your doctor if you have glaucoma, problems passing urine, or an enlarged prostate, as these may worsen with spiriva.
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find more ways to get to the table but you can still refinance to a fixed rate as low as 4.75% at lendingtree.com, where customers save an average of $293 a month. call lending tree at... today. hi, everybody. i'm thomas roberts. here's what's topping the news now. fear grows about just how dangerous leaks are and what if anything can be done about it. well, here at home we can help out and groups from all over the world are asking for your help. you can go to usaid.gov for all the different i was yways you c simple donations. reports of six dead in bahrain after a day break revolt
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drove people out of the square. witnesses say tanks and armored personnel carriers are on their way to head off a reported protest this afternoon. the government declared a state of emergency yesterday issuing a curfew starting at 4:00 p.m. local time today. moammar gadhafi's forces have retaken a strategic area. the key victory comes as gadhafi warns rebels "there are only two possibilities, surrender or run away." secretary of state hillary clinton wrapped up her meeting with egypt's new prime minister, but before that, she took a walk inç cairo's tahrir square, the center of the revolution that eventually brought down that country's president, hosni mubarak. clinton called it drithrilling see where it happened. she's with andrea mitchell today on "andrea mitchell reports" right here on msnbc at 1:00 p.m. eastern time. raymond davis is a free man this morning.
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he is the american cia contractor who spent almost two months in a pakistani prison on murder charges. officials there say the families of the two pakistanis that he's alleged to have killed pardoned him in exchange for compensation. the u.s., however, will not confirm if money was exchanged, but did say that the justice department is investigating that incident. fbi director robert mueller testifying on the hill this morning in what could be one of his last appearances before his ten-year term ends in september. the search is on for his replacement and reports say the candidates include a former special agent, a high profile u.s. attorney, and a new york police commissioner. mueller took the post a week before the september 11th attacks. residents in miami-dade county, florida, have voted out mayor carlos alvarez in a no confidence vote electing to end his tenure. the mayer is finishing his second term a year early, thanks to a jump in property taxes while at the same time giving government employees a raise.
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the city of detroit is poised to close half of the city's public schools. you heard about this. we broadcast about it. planning to turn some of the schools into a charter school model. is that the right answer? we'll explore. in light of the deadly bus crash that killed 15 people here in new york, why don't coach buses require seat belts? we're going to debate that question straight ahead. so you have five brothers. tough being the only girl. aw, there's the man of the house. who's this ? this is rufus. hey, rufus. he's actually pretty talented. you wanna see him do a trick ? ok.
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aftershocks, homelessness, power outages and lack of food and water. over 90 countries are involved in the relief effort but getting the supplies to the families that need them has not been easy. since disaster struck japan, there has been an increase in both u.s. awareness and concern about just how prepared we are, americans, to meet similar catastrophes. the fact is most people are not prepared for imminent disaster let alone willing to take the steps to prepare for dire circumstances. that doesn't mean we can't. what should every home have in case of an mremergency or natur disaster. here to talk about the easy things to do to keep your home and family well stocked for safety sake is craig fugate. good to have you with us. no one wants to be accused of generating a panic, but when disaster does strike, it does raise a lot of concerns, makes us much more mindful.
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is it realist forç people to te stock of what they can do and what they need to stock up on in case of disaster? >> yeah. it is a good opportunity to, you know, see what is happening there and remember that disasters don't always give us warning. start out with the basic steps of does your family plan, and do you have a plan? talk about how to communicate if a disaster happens, you're at work, or you're away from each other. and then look at the things you're going to need if you have to evacuate quickly, or if you stay at your home with the power going out and the water goes out. you can go to ready.gov and don't think you got to go buy everything. start with a scavenger hunt. a lot of this stuff, get it together so you know where it is at, if the lights go out, power goes out or you need to evacuate quickly in an emergency. >> when we hear about the situation that is happening in japan and what is people have done here they started to stock up on potassium iodide tablets. is this necessary for the regular family of four have lying around the house? >> not because of this event.
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now, there are people and there are communities that they live in areas around nuclear power plants where that is something the state health department has done. that's a case by case, based upon plans that are taking place at state and local levels around existing power plants. because of this event, we're not seeing this as a need. this is more based upon look at what happened there as far as the things you need. >> we promised everybody a simple and easy checklist that i want to show everybody, things that should be in the home in case of a disaster. we have water, food, radio, flashlig flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, dust mask, duct tape, garbage bags, moist toilets, a wrench or pliers, can opener, maps and last but not least, a cell phone. if you think if people went through that pretty easily, they would be able to find most of that that in their house now or in their junk drawer in the kitchen. do you really think and recommend that everybody should
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have this in one safe place that they can get to pretty easily?ç >> yeah. this is really where you get everything together because, again, like with an earthquake, you may not have time to get ready. unlike maybe we can see a hurricane coming, some of these disasters occur so quickly, if you have it together, just makes it a lot easier, particularly if you got to go. if you have to evacuate, you have your supplies together, you can get that, get the family, get the pets and get out of there. that's going to be key. >> nonperishable food. canned food here, what examples can you give us? dry goods? >> exactly. that dry goods, canned foods, making sure that you have a couple of days extra supply andiand, remember, the can openers, you want the manual ones. >> i want to know what's in your house? what is in your preparedness kit? >> we got -- we have the bottled water, we have the dried goods, we have flashlights. we have flashlights all over the house. when the power goes out yourbs
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don, you don't want to try to find the flashlights. the other thing is a cell phone charger that you can use those hand crank radios or inverters where you use a car battery or cigarette lighter to recharge the cell phones. we have seen that with the power out for long periods of time, those cell phone batteries may not last very long. >> and solar rechargeable batteries through the would be helpful for people. >> yes, some of the solar panels, i've seen those as well. again, we really want people to think about what they would need when the power goes out, the water goes out, and they're able to stay home and what they need to do to evacuate, what they take with them. >> craig fugate from fema, thank you. great to see you. appreciate your time. >> thank you. >> we turn now to capitol hill where general david petraeus commander of u.s. forces in afghanistan is testifying right now on the u.s. military's progress in that country. despite growing go ining doubt
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aid money being spend is helping us win the war, general petraeus says we're turning the :ide. >> the momentum achieved by the taliban in afghanistan since 2005 has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas. however, while the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible. >> i am joined now by msnbc military analyst and retired army colonel jack jacobs. good morning. the prevailing strategy in afghanistan is counterinsurgency, the idea you win the hearts and minds of the local population by offering financial support, examples like schools for people, but there is this disagreement over whether the strategy is working. >> we don't have enough troops to take over the entire country. and this kind of exercise requires not just going into places, but staying in places like helmand and kandahar and
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other provinces next to the border with pakistan. just can't walk in, leave a bag of money and walk out. it requires you just stay there a while. we don't have enough troops to -- for every place. the president of the states has already said he doesn't want to stay a while and wants to withdraw the forces we already have there. we're going to be -- we are successful. we'll continue to be successful and kn , but we're going to leave and when we leave, all that stuff will be reversible. >> i want to say to everyone, petraeus said he's not offering optimism or pessimism, just realism. isn't that the realism, though, that the minute we do pull out, that things are going to revert back to normal and the successes, the minor inroads we made there will be washed away. >> i think most of them will be. we won't be there long enough to ensure that those successes will remain. and part of it is our fault. don't forget we went in there and governed the taliban in '03.
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and then we wasted -- we completely ignored afghanistan for seven years. it is not surprising that it is going to take another seven years to make it up. but we're not going to stay there another seven years. the president alrea" said so. >> let's go over the numbers here, jack. the u.s. has 100,000 troops in afghanistan. petraeus telling the senate committee yesterday he would soon give president obama this plan to start withdrawing the troops. is this simply a game of numbers and when we're talking about the withdrawal of troops, how quickly can you pull them all oug out? >> it is all numbers. it is not -- we're not going to have them all out. we'll have most of them out. the 40,000 that belong to allies are all going to be withdrawn very soon and the large majority of our allies have already withdrawn their troops. that's going to leave almost exclusively american troops. we're not taking them all out. some will remain as mobile training teams and all the rest of that stuff.
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the large majority, i guarantee you, will be out by the time the election occurs in 2012. i think that's what the president wants to do. at least for political purposes. in the end, whatever successfuls we will have had in afghanistan will remain only in the small places where we have worked very hard. the idea of having a country that is centrally governed from kabul is absolute nonsense and one of the things we have not paid very much attention to is the corruption of karzai's government and the really bad effect that will have on things going forward. >> very valid points there. jack, great to see you. >> good to be with you. detroit, let's bring it home here facing a $327 million deficit and public schools are on the chopping block there. who is coming into the rescue? there is a new plan to turn 41 of detroit's 142 public schools into charter schools. district leaders say it could save 75, maybe $99 million in operating costs each year.
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eva, nice to have you with us. >> thanks for having me. >> you heard the numbers here. let's go over this. there are reports of additional savings maybe of $22 million for eliminating the costs of shutting down the schools. so charter schools have a growing presence in our country now. are we going see this really taking effect coast to coast? >> well, i thinkç charters are great innovation, but they shouldn't, even though they're cheaper, than district schools, and they shouldn't be used to solve cash flow problems. that's not good educational policy. it costs money to educate children exceptionally well. detroit is in a fiscal crisis. we're going to have to change the way we do business. but to think that charters just bringing them in and charterizing everything as a solution to your cash flow problems, i worry about that strategy. >> when you look at what is taking place in detroit, you
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support that idea or do you think that you look at it with trepidation? >> i support charters as an alternative to district schools, but i don't support charters as a solution to cash flow problems. that's not a good way to do educational policies. some charters are great. some charters are not so great. they give you the freedom to get it right. but we're going to have to fundamentally rethink how we support public education. that's going to take dollars as well as innovation. >> don't charters mean problems with unions because they don't have to pay teachers more. the charter schools don't have unionized teachers. so it makes a difference when it comes to tenure and their pensions. >> i think they have the potential to be effective because they don't have many of the constraints that are handicapping traditional public schools. but when you have a city that is broke, that is in the red, to simply think that you can bring in charters to solve the cash flow problem doesn't seem right.
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that doesn't mean i'm against charters. i'm a charter operator. i think that excellent charters can do something that district schools can't do. but for a city to solve its financial crisis, with charters as its solution, that makes me very nervous. >> this is what i can't get you on the record about, because detroit is pretty much using this to solve cash flow issues. however, you would support charters going into that community, but just not such, i guess in such saturation5ñ they're trying to do it? >> it is not the saturation. it is that charter are an instrument of good educational policy. they're not to solve cash flow problems. they're cheaper. but you've got to have thoughtful charter leaders. you need to have a plan to deliver education at an incredibly high level, so if you've got your finance guy who simply looks at charter and says, we can save a little money it will solve our cash flow, i think you're not going to get very good charters. >> as you point out, though, it costs money to educate our kids.
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it costs money to educate our kids well. when we look at the american school system and think about the kids of the future, and especially president obama using the phrase over and over again, winning our future what do you say to the parents out there concerned about some of the school systems that are closing up in certain cities, especially in detroit and coming in with charters as a provocative new example of how to educate the kids? >> i support charters whole heartedly as an educational alternative. i think that they have the potential to provide a much higher quality of service. >> how do you get parents on board with that, though? >> we have thousands of applicants here in new york for only a thousand spots. so we had a lottery last year, we had 7,000 parents for 1100 spots. i think parents have voted with their feet and frankly parents don't really care whether it is a district school or a charter school, as the mother of three, i want my three kids to get an excellent education. that's what i care about. i don't care about the service
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delivery system. >> if the people in detroit were watching this right now and watching you, would you take their call and help them out? >> i would absolutely take any parents call. my heart goes out to parents who are searching for a phenomenal school and it is really hard. >> eva, we wish you best of luck with the work you're doing here in new york. we appreciate you coming on today. thanks so much. the deadly bus accident on new york's i-95 which killed 15 people have many peopleç askin why no seat belts on board? we're back with much more after this. [ female announcer ] you have all this chicken. chicken, chicken chicken. there are thousands of ways to prepare it. [ chickens clucking ] you know only two of them. time to mix it up. time for new philly cooking creme. it'll take your chicken to places it's never been before. somewhere creamier, dreamier, with lots of flavor.
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which means i get an even more rockin' hotel, for less. my brain didn't even break a sweat. where you book matters. expedia. it's personal. i have diabetes. so i'm proud to manufacture the accu-chek aviva meters and test strips here in the usa. and now we put a prescription discount card in every box so you'll pay no more than $15 on test strips, which is a true american value for people with diabetes like me. [ male announcer ] accu-chek aviva. born in the usa. a string of fatal bus crashes is putting the spotlight on the safety of the passengers that take charter trips on our highways. it started on saturday, you may remember, here in new york. a horrific scene, the coach swerving out of control, its top
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getting ripped to shreds. it killed 14 people. followed by just days later another luxury bus crash killing the driver and another person on board. the federal research is telling that seat belts could reduce the risk of death in a bus rollover crash by someç 77%. christopher beam is a staff writer for slate magazine and joins us this morning to talk about this. you really had an interesting article on all of this, and the one simple fact jumps out to all of us who read it, but no state currently mandates safety belts on the luxury coach buses. it is legal, and here we are with these latest terrible tragedies. do you think this is going to make lawmakers look at this more suspiciously to think, wait a minute, something needs to be done here? >> it actually already has. we saw a spate of coach bus crashes in 2008 and that caused the department of transportation to take a closer look and conduct a study and that's where
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the number you just mentioned came from, the 77% safer with a seat belt. the tricky thing is that some people disagree on whether it is worth the cost or not. in that same study, the department of transportation said they think it would cost about $25 million a year to outfit every new coach bus with seat belts. and they also estimated that that would save 1 to 8 lives every year. so, you know, $25 million, 1 to 8 lives, you know, works out to maybe $25 million per life some years versus, you know, $4 million other years. it is a tough calculation. but, you know, that's what transportation officials do all the time. >> i'm sure the families that hear about the study being done in 2008, for those that have just lost loved ones in the most recent bus crashes would have wished that money had been spent. i do want to turn, though, to school buses. we were showing video of school buses. also no seat belts there.
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you mentioned an nhts report from 2002 saying lap belts appear to have little if any benefit in reducing serious to fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes on the contrary lap belts could increase the incidents of serious neck injuries. so kids are actually safer without them. that's something we should tell parents ádñ there, that put their kids on a school bus every day. >> well, it is important to distinguish between lap belts, which, yes, the department of transportation said could be more dangerous than nothing. and shoulder lap belts, which are what you're used to wearing in a car. because with a lap belt, you're much more likely to have whiplash and, you know, your back will bend over, where as with a shoulder belt, you're kept upright. those are shown to be safer than nothing. it is just very, very -- there say small difference between that and nothing. with school buses, it is what they call compartmentalization,
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the fact the seats are so close together and they have four inches of cushioning is itself a safety measure. and unless you're ejected, which means, you know, getting launched out of the seat during a rollover, you're likely to be okay. >> it really is a lot of thought for everybody who travels by i coach and putting their kids on school buses every day, thinking about the safety concerns that go along with that risk. we put ourselves in harm's way in a lot of capacities in our daily life. christopher, great article. christopher beam, thanks for coming on. >> thanks so much, thomas. right now we have some developing news coming to us out of japan. this coming to us from the pentagon. u.s. forces in japan are being told not to go -- not to go -- within 50 miles of the country's crippled nuclear's reactors without special authorization. the military emphasizes there is no sign of any nuclear poisoning in any of our personnel. but u.s. forces in japan are being told not to go within 50
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miles of the fukushima nuclear reactor plant that is in crisis. this from the pentagon. we'll keep an eye on this developments and get more headlines for you as the day continues. details on that story. all right. so we all know about three mile island. we've been talking about that. but did you know there was another nuclear accident in the united states before that one? and it took place in idaho in 1961. and the details make up today's flip side. stay with me. it's coming your way next. boomers are getting social. a recent study from the pewç internet and american life project shows boomers are joining social networking sites like facebook in record numbers. usage of social media among those 50 to 64 increased by a surprising 88%. reasons cited include helping their business, looking for discounts and bargains and keeping up with kids, grandkids and long-lost friends. this is lara. her morning begins with arthritis pain. that's a coffee and two pills. the afternoon tour begins with more pain and more pills.
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now it's time for the flip side. a look behind the headlines. and a look at a chilling moment in nuclear history. it all happened on january 3rd, 1961 at the now extinct sl-1
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station, an experimental power plant in idaho. the site was destroyed when the core's control rod was improperly manually removed causing a meltdown. it is the only known fatal reactor accident in the u.s. three of the plant's operators were killed including two army specialist and a navy electrician's mate. an investigation revealed the men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste and their bodies buried in lead coffins. the reactor is gone,ç but ther is still evidence of the incident. this is the grave of one of the victims. as it stands to this very day at arlington national cemetery. a stark and nearly forgotten moment of a nightmarish moment in america's nuclear past that was all but forgotten until now. that is going to do it for me today. i'm thomas roberts. i'll see you back here at the same time every weekday morning. contessa brewer is here to pick things up for the next hour.
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>> hey there, thomas. i know you've been keeping tabs on it. we're watching the inside look at essentially what's happening in those nuclear reactors in janua japan and the photos. plus, the biggest nuclear scare in the united states, three mile island, what's changed 32 years later to make nuclear power safe. and president obama, how does he recapture the magic of 2008? we have a lot ahead. stick around. to go heart health. to go heart health. who's your someone? campbell's healthy request can help. low cholesterol, zero grams trans fat, and a healthy level of sodium. it's amazing what soup can do. and we can cook out more with friends. my card lets me work out more. ♪ and ours lets us eat out more. aarp helps us do our favorite thing. the new website is my favorite thing. [ female announcer ] with aarp
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[ technician ] are you busy? management just sent over these new technical manuals. they need you to translate them into portuguese. by tomorrow. [ male announcer ] ducati knows it's better for xerox to manage their global publications. so they can focus on building amazing bikes. with xerox, you're ready for real business. inch good day good day, everybody. i'm contessa brewer. the experts call the crisis in japan a slow-moving nightmare. but international assistance is pouring in. about 480 marines, sailors and civilians are being deployed as part of "operation tomodachi" which means friends. marine aircraft have flown almost 80 humanitarian relief